Eisai's new research unit taps Genomics for analysis support

Eisai has added to its genomics capabilities. The latest move sees the Japanese drugmaker's nascent Integrated Human Genomics (IHGx) Research Unit team up with Genomics plc, an Oxford University spinout founded in response to the United Kingdom's 100,000 Genomes Project.

Genomics will apply its software, algorithms and skills to the analysis of large-scale, multi-phenotype genetic association data. Eisai foresees the collaboration supporting its target selection and validation, as well as its choice of indications and repositioning work. And while like many such genomics-driven research programs Eisai is targeting cancer, its IHGx unit is also going after neurodegenerative and autoimmune diseases.

The inclusion of neurodegenerative and autoimmune diseases in the remit of IHGx is indicative of the belief of senior management that genomics research is ready to branch out. IHGx Director Nadeem Sarwar--the ex-University of Cambridge researcher who Eisai poached from Pfizer ($PFE)--has spoken in the past about how the growth in availability of genotype-phenotype data and emergence of systems to derive biological insights from genetic signals is broadening the reach of genomics.

IHGx and Genomics are both testament to the rising number of people who agree with such stances. Eisai created IHGx to carve out a space for wet-lab biologists, chemists and data scientists to work at arm's length from the parent company. Sarwar was recruited from Pfizer--where he ran its cardiometabolic genetics unit and helped to found the Cambridge/Pfizer Center for CV Genomics--to lead IHGx.

Genomics has a similarly short history. The company was founded by four genomic scientists who met at the University of Oxford and later worked together at the Wellcome Trust Centre for Human Genetics. With the United Kingdom trying to use its 100,000 Genomes Project as a launchpad for a new industry, the group set up Genomics. Since then it has won contracts from the group running the U.K. sequencing project, landed a $15 million Series A round and begun to sign up biopharma clients.

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